The property and construction sector in Victoria is suffering from a government which is ‘paralysed’ in terms of infrastructure developments, has failed to implement a true pipeline of public sector projects and has shut the door on consultation with the industry, the state’s opposition leader says.
In an address before a Property Council of Australia lunch in Melbourne, Victorian State Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said that while the state had much to offer, its jobs market was in crisis, companies were leaving, young people were being locked out of training opportunities and the state lacked either a jobs plan or a pipeline of major capital works.
He said many of the projects built under the current government had either been planned by the previous government or were proposals which failed to make sense or lacked rigour, especially the ‘$1 million per metre’ East West Link which he said had no business case, no reliable traffic modelling and contracts due to be signed days before the government goes into caretaker mode.
Andrews said instead, the industry needed a reliable pipeline of work, reiterating a previously announced Labour strategy involving the creation of a new infrastructure body and plans to generate 10,000 new jobs through construction of the Metropolitan Rail Link, removal of 50 dangerous level crossings, a direct link into the Port of Melbourne and $2 billion in upgrades to regional and outer suburban roads. Much of the last item was to be funded by the sale of a long term lease for the Port of Melbourne.
“That is not a major projects agenda,” Andrews said, referring to the government’s promotion of East West Link. “One project is not a pipeline of projects. One project is not the state sending the strongest possible message to markets both at home and abroad, to (the property industry), to investors, that we will work hard to put our state first and so should you.”
Andrews' comments follow moves on the part of the current government earlier this year to splurge what it claimed was record spending of $27 billion in infrastructure over four years in the latest budget.
The comments also follow the release in July of a Property Council report arguing that Victoria needed $50 billion in infrastructure upgrades over the next decade and identifying 14 possible ways to fund this.
Andrews said Labour’s planned establishment of the new infrastructure body would help guide non-political discussions about public assets and ensure a systematic approach to planning free from political or electoral cycles.
He also accused the current government of being guided by bureaucrats and refusing to listen to industry, adding that he feels the public sector needs a new ‘culture’ of open doors and genuine industry consultation.
He cited New South Wales and Queensland as examples of states with leadership in this area, despite these states having Liberal governments.
“Sydney is on a tear, Brisbane is not far behind,” Andrews said. “Sydney is going ahead. They won office about four years ago. They ran on the platform of making Sydney number one again.”
“Well if we are not careful, we’ll (Victoria) be helping them do just that.
“We cannot have four more years like the last four. We need a government that works full time, that works hard, listens, and has a plan but is prepared to be informed and advised by others to make that a better and a stronger plan.”